Photo by David Mallinson - his entry into our annual photocompetition
Travel lovers around the world dream of it: exploring the fabulous
cities and rolling hills of Tuscany. Villas are, for many,
the perfect launching pad for their adventures – go at your own pace,
comfortable in the knowledge that there’s a cosy retreat waiting for you at the
end of the day. And when it comes to visiting famous cities like Pisa, you’ll
be a step ahead of the package tours, able to venture beyond the most popular
sights and spend as long as you like investigating the rest of the city. So
where to start?
For those who want to beat the crowds on their travels in Tuscany, villas
near Pisa are well-placed to let you head into town while other travellers are
still at their hotel breakfasts. Getting there early means that you can enjoy
the Piazza del Miracoli – or Square of Miracles, home to the city’s most iconic
sights – in relative peace. Located north of the historic centre of town, this
is where you’ll see the Leaning Tower – or Torre Pendente – as well as the
Duomo and the Baptistry. The Tower is what draws flocks of visitors to the
square daily. Its long construction started in the twelfth century, and it
began to tilt shortly afterwards – and was not completely stabilised until
2008. Today, it’s safe to climb to the top for wonderful views of the city. Also worth
seeing are the Duomo, a wonderful showcase of Romanesque cathedral design, the
Baptistry, and the Museo del Opera del Duomo. The latter is a museum featuring
a fascinating collection of artworks.
Next, why not leave the Piazza dei Miracoli behind to see what else
Pisa – a history- and culture-rich town with a vibrant student population – has
to offer? The best of the city’s life can be seen along the Arno promenade,
which is Pisa in miniature: Renaissance palaces next to contemporary shops and
restaurants, all in a highly photogenic setting. This is a great place to
linger into the evening, watching the river and enjoying some of the city’s
Before you leave, stop by the Piazza delle Vettovaglie for a bustling
local market. In Tuscany,
villas are great for enjoying a lazy lunch on the veranda – and this is the
perfect place to stock up on Italian lunch essentials!
March is the season of the Camelias & the historic Villas in the Lucca region are open for viewing these beautiful flowers (which love the local climate). Alongside the Camelia Villas tours there are also music, art exhibitions, cultural events & tastings of Camelia tea. Events take place in the Pieve di Compiti & San Andrea di Compiti locations on 9-10, 16-17 & 23-24 March.
Our accommodation, which cost less than £800 for the week, is in a converted stone farmhouse next to a 12th Century Franciscan chapel. There is a pergola shaded by vines round the back here we quickly settle into a rhythm of eating long pasta suppers while the shadows lengthen.